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March is Red Cross Month- Learn How to Prepare Your Business in the Case of an Emergency

By James Rivera, SBA Official
Published: March 12, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2014

Following a tradition begun by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, President Barack Obama has proclaimed March as American Red Cross Month.

Since July 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration has supported a partnership with the American Red Cross, participating in events to promote the importance of disaster preparedness for individuals and businesses.  Getting the word out about the Red Cross Ready Rating program has been a focus of the American Red Cross/SBA relationship. 

Ready Rating is a free, self-paced, web-based membership program that helps a business measure its ability to deal with emergencies.  All you have to do is answer the questions, based on what you know about your company and its operations, and Ready Rating gives customized feedback on how to start or improve your business continuity planning.

A recent report by the Small Business Majority and the American Sustainable Business Council estimates the average cost of downtime from small businesses affected by an extreme weather event is $3,000 per day.  Since small businesses don’t have the resources of large corporations, it’s a good idea to build a resilient organization by creating a solid disaster preparedness plan.  And Ready Rating is a great, easy-to-use emergency planning tool.

At the Ready Rating site (www.readyrating.org), you can:

  • Complete an assessment to measure the overall preparedness level of your business
  • Create a custom-made emergency plan for your organization
  • Access tools to help you complete a hazard vulnerable assessment
  • Get tips on implementing your emergency response plan
  • Download the Free First-Aid app

Red Cross Month is a good time to take a step to protect your employees, customers and your community by joining Ready Rating, becoming an organization that’s prepared to save both lives and livelihoods.

In the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, the SBA provides recovery assistance in the form of low-interest, direct loans to businesses of all sizes, homeowners, renters, and private non-profit organizations.  Visit the website for more information about SBA’s disaster loan program.

About the Author:

James Rivera
James Rivera

SBA Official

James Rivera was named Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance in November 2009 after serving for several months as Acting Associate Administrator. In a typical year, his office approves about 20,000 loans totaling about $1 billion. This is the SBA’s sole direct lending program.

Is Bad Credit Stopping You from Getting Business Loans?

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: March 11, 2014 Updated: March 8, 2016

In a recent report, over 63% of business owners attempting to find funding say they most often targeted banks. Unfortunately, the success among these respondents of actually getting a business loan was a low 27%.  

However, recent news suggest small business owners considered creditworthy are discovering it to be easier to get business loans from traditional banks. This is good news for the economy since access to funding for small businesses is a part of job and economic growth.

Unfortunately, bad credit plagues a large percentage of small business owners as a result of the financial crisis several years back. The fact remains that it’s harder for smaller businesses ­– even with stellar credit ratings ­– to get traditional bank loans than it is for larger businesses.

Access to capital is the single largest roadblock most business owners face when growing their business. With a business loan, these businesses can hire new employees, purchase additional inventory, buy or upgrade equipment and increase their marketing efforts.

So what can a business owner do if bad credit is preventing them from getting a business loan?

The good news is there are alternative funding programs and solutions providing business owners the opportunity to obtain a business loan or line of credit regardless of having bad personal credit. Instead, other factors are taken into consideration such as bank deposit history, credit card sales, credit partners and other data sources.

Here are several factors that can get you a business loan regardless of having bad credit:

Bank deposits – A business with regular bank deposits can put its cash flow to work with revenue-based loans. This program is based on the deposits going into the business bank account on a monthly basis. Typically, a business can obtain a business loan equal to 10% of its annual gross deposits regardless of having bad credit. Another benefit of this program is the time it takes to get funded, which is approximately 7 business days.

Keep in mind the loan term can be as long as 18 months with this program, with rates slightly higher than a traditional bank rate. It requires no collateral, financials or tax returns. Repayments are made in small increments every day via ACH from the business bank account.

Credit card sales – This type of funding program, known as a merchant cash advance, provides businesses with upfront cash in exchange for a portion of future credit card sales. For businesses that have regular monthly credit card sales but struggle with bad personal credit, a merchant cash advance may be a viable option.

However, be very selective on what merchant cash advance provider you select. Some providers can cost as high as 38% while others can be as low as 12%. In addition, when it comes to repayment, the majority of merchant cash providers take a fixed percentage of your daily credit card receipt volume until the advance you took is paid back. Other business cash advance providers may offer a fixed monthly installment payment for its repayment method.

Credit Partner – Using a business partner(s) as a credit partner for obtaining lines of credit in the form of business credit cards can be a viable solution to overcome a personal credit challenge. A business partner who has strong credit scores is the best place to look. You may also want to consider someone who may be interested in participating in your business as a potential credit partner.

This method does bring risk to the credit partner because they are cosigning with the business to obtain funding. However, it’s important to note the type of unsecured business credit cards I am referring to will not appear on the personal credit reports of the cosigner unless they go into default.

There are many other types of funding programs that offer small business owners the opportunity to get business loans or access to cash without having perfect credit or subjecting themselves to all the rigorous analysis, cumbersome paperwork, lengthy process and aggravating timelines that comes with a traditional business loan.  

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Is There a Form for That? An Introduction to Commonly Used Exporting Forms for Your Small Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 10, 2014 Updated: September 26, 2016

If you’re a small business owner interested in exporting – or are already navigating the international arena – you know there’s a lot to get organized. The resources available from Export.gov can help you with all the stages, from training and market research to information about financing. Export.gov also offers a wealth of information about documents that are used in exporting. Here’s a rundown of a few of the most common.

Common Export Documents

Commercial Invoice: A commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. Governments often use them to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties.

Export Packing List: An export packing list features much more detail than a standard domestic packing list. It lists the seller, buyer, shipper, invoice number, shipment date and more. It also itemizes quantity, description, type of package (such as a box or crate), the weight and even more details.

Pro Forma Invoice: An exporter prepares a pro forma invoice before shipping the goods. It lets the buyer know the goods to be sent, their value and other key information. It also can be used as an offering of sale or price quote.

Transportation Documents

Airway Bill: Airway bills are required for any airfreight shipments and are shipper-specific. For example, USPS, Fed-Ex, UPS, etc. have individual airway bills

Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. A straight bill of lading is non-negotiable. A second, negotiable type is known as a shipper's order bill of lading. This can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in transit. The customer usually needs an original as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

Electronic Export Information (EEI): This is the most common of all export control documents. It’s required for shipments above $2,500 and for shipments of any value requiring an export license. It has to be electronically filed via the AES Direct online system, which is a free service from Census and Customs. If you’re shipping to Canada, you don’t need an EEI unless an export license is required.

Export Compliance

Export Licenses: An export license is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. Some countries require an export license for most or all exports; others require it only under special circumstances.

Certificates Of Origin

Generic Certificate of Origin: Some countries require a Certificate of Origin (CO) for either all or just certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead is sufficient, although some countries require that it be notarized. You should verify if a CO is required with the buyer, an experienced shipper/freight forwarder or the Trade Information Center.

Check out Export.gov  for more information about these and more, including documents required for shipping specific products and destination-specific requirements. You can also visit Business USA’s Exporting Portal for additional resources.

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

10 Ways to Maximize Your Home Office for Productivity

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: March 6, 2014

If you run one of the 14+ million home-based small businesses in the United States, congratulations. You’ve got lower overhead, a shorter commute and the opportunity to be more productive than your office-based competitors.

 

Still, working from home isn’t all eating peanut butter out of the jar and wearing your fuzzy slippers. There are plenty of pitfalls that can distract you from getting your work done. Here we look at 10 ways to ensure you’re set up for success in your home office.

 

1. Carve Out a Workspace

 

Not every entrepreneur is fortunate enough to have a spare room to turn into an office. That’s okay. You can use part of a room separated by a curtain or even a closet. The point here is to ensure you have a dedicated space that is only for work.

 

2. Set Up Your Day

 

The more routines you have, the more you’ll get done. If you have small children at home with you while you work, plan to work when they nap or when they’re quiet; otherwise you won’t be productive. Plan out your work hours; they don’t have to be 9 to 5, but they should be fairly consistent. Also, consider your attire. Some people love working in pajamas or sweats. Other people (like me) get more done by getting dressed in “business casual” – for some reason getting dressed to be seen by the world makes me feel more professional, even if it’s just me.  

 

3. Figure Out When You Work Best

 

Part of those routines you need to set up involve determining when you’re most productive. Some people are night owls, and some are early birds. Some need quiet time without phones and instant messages, so getting up early avoids that. You might need complete quiet in your home office. Whatever your needs, don’t fight against them.

 

4. Have an Ergonomic Set Up

 

You need a comfortable chair with good back support, a decent computer monitor you can easily see and a keyboard at the right height to avoid awkward pressure on arms and wrists. Don’t forget your eyes. Your computer should be at the right distance to see without strain; if necessary, see your eye doctor for “computer glasses” that are made for viewing a computer properly. Two monitors also can help productivity (less time spent jumping between applications), so if you can afford an extra monitor, by all means try it out.

 

5. Use Smart Tools

 

There are so many free or affordable software programs and apps for small businesses! Find the ones that help you do more. A few options:

 

6. Remove Distractions

It can be tempting to fold the laundry that’s in the middle of the floor, but pretend you’re at an office and ignore it. It’s important to designate certain hours for work, and certain hours for home life. Occasionally, it’s fine to take a break and run an errand, but don’t let it encourage you to procrastinate on a project.

 

7. Get Out of the House

 

Many people can’t bear being alone all the time in their home offices. Fortunately, we’ve become a mobile society, and you’ll always see plenty of people at your local coffee shop working on their laptops. Get a change of environment. Try working from a park or restaurant, if you can be productive there.

 

8. Find Support in Person or Online

 

It can be nice to meet other home-based entrepreneurs too. Find a local meetup of people like you or a local event where you can share your stories and find support in your small business endeavors. If you spend any time on Twitter or other social media sites, you’ll find plenty of folks who, like you, are working out of their homes. #HomeBiz is a great hashtag to follow to find content and conversations geared toward people like you.

 

9. Keep Learning

 

Find as many opportunities as you can to develop your business and industry knowledge. This can come in the form of online webinars, Twitter chats, in-person conferences, seminars, books, blogs and magazines.

 

10. Meet Regularly With Staff

If you have employees who also work from their homes, make a point to meet once a week or month so you reap the benefits of face-to-face time. While it’s completely possible to work virtually, nothing can make up for that in-person relationship-building time.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Business Cards Still Matter. Here’s How to Make Yours Stand Out

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: March 4, 2014

It’s hard to believe with all the options we have for sharing contact information electronically, but the good old-fashioned business card is not going away any time soon. According to a survey by global crowdsourcing marketplace Designcrowd, a whopping 87 percent of Americans still exchange business cards when they meet someone for the first time.

If you think this is an empty gesture done out of habit, think again. More than two-thirds of survey respondents say business cards are useful because they either enter the information into their smartphones or file the cards in a Rolodex. In fact, Designcrowd says the number of business card design projects created on its website grew by 357 percent last year.

Personally, I can see the benefit of quickly exchanging a card along with a handshake, as opposed to fumbling with your smartphone to input someone’s information. Clearly, lots of businesspeople feel the way I do and are churning out business cards.

So how can you make your business cards stand out from the crowd? Here are some trends to consider in business card design for 2014 and beyond.

Incorporate QR codes. QR codes haven’t quite panned out as digital marketing tools, but they can work for business cards as an interactive lead generation tool. If your company sells B2B products or services or is in an industry with lots of tech-savvy, early adopters, a QR code might be worth a try. To make the most of a QR code, make sure it goes to a special landing page on your website where the user can learn more about your business and contact you for more information. For instance, it could be an About page with a video about your business and a click-to-call button or a form they can fill out to get a call from a sales rep.

Focus on branding. Your business card should convey your brand at a glance. This means your logo should be prominent and the overall feel of the card should harmonize with the rest of your marketing materials in terms of colors, fonts and images. The cleverest card in the world won’t do its job if the message it conveys doesn’t jibe with your brand.

Spend more on quality. Generic business cards are a dime a dozen (or 250 for $10), but they blend in and convey a “blah” message that your business is just like everyone else’s. By spending a little more on high-quality elements such as handmade or textured paper, rounded corners, colored edges or embossed print, you can convey an image of quality that makes your business cards—and your business—memorable.

Keep it simple. Business cards packed with information, images and multiple colors look dated and tacky today. Today’s trendy business cards feature clean lines and clear, legible fonts inspired by the “flat design” trend currently popular in website design. Flat design is characterized by a minimalist look. Instead of shadows or 3-D effects, flat design features strong lines; solid, saturated blocks of color; and creative use of typography.

Choose the right font. Clean, sans-serif fonts fit into the flat design trend. They look modern and are easier to read. Use fonts at least 12 point or larger. Also consider how your fonts stand out against the color of your card—if they’re too similar, the card will be hard to read. In contrast to minimal fonts, another hot trend is fonts that look handwritten; these can work great for a business that prides itself on unique, quirky or artisanal products.

Both sides now. How do you reconcile simplicity with the need to include your business website, office and cell numbers, email and tons of social media handles on your card? Try keeping the front of the card clean with just your logo or other image, your name and your business name, then putting the details on the back.

Get professional help. Sure, you can pick your business cards using an online template, but it’s worth spending a bit more to get something uniquely yours. There are dozens of crowdsourcing business card sites where you can get graphic designers to compete for your project, or talk to colleagues to get recommendations for a good designer in your area.

What matters most about your business card is that it reflect your brand and your industry. Here are some cool examples of creative cards I’ve seen:

  • Business cards made out of cloth for an apparel designer
  • A travel agency with business cards shaped like luggage tags
  • Pet groomer business cards shaped like dog tags
  • Business cards embossed with 3-D seeds for a landscaper
  • A photographer featuring one of her photos as the background for her business cards

You get the idea. Get creative, and your cards will get results! Once you’ve got your cards, check out this post for ideas on how to use them.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

SBA’s HUBZone Program- Helping Urban and Rural-Based Businesses Succeed

Published: March 3, 2014 Updated: March 3, 2014

SBA’s Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone Program, helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to government contracting opportunities. If your business is located in an area where business development and growth has been fairly limited, you may qualify.

Location, location, location

The first step to determining your HUBZone Program eligibility is to locate your place of business on our HUBZone maps. By entering your address, you can quickly find out if your business operations are in a HUBZone. You’ll see a clear message on the results screen telling you whether the location is or is not qualified.

Am I eligible?

Once you determine that your business is located in a HUBZone, there are a few additional eligibility requirements to consider. Generally, businesses must:

  • Be a small business by SBA standards
  • Be owned and controlled at least 51% by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative or an Indian tribe
  • Have its principal office within a HUBZone, which includes lands considered “Indian Country” and military facilities closed by the Base Realignment and Closure ActNote:  HUBZone regulations define “principal office” as the location where the greatest number of the concern's employees at any one location perform their work. For businesses whose primary industry is service or construction, the determination of principal office excludes the firm’s employees who perform the majority of their work at job-site locations to fulfill specific contract obligations.
  • Have at least 35% of its employees residing in a HUBZone

What are the benefits?

Along with the growth you’ll help bring into your community, there are unique benefits to the HUBZone Program. Because of specific government set-asides that require a certain percentage of work to be obtained from HUBZone businesses, you’ll gain a competitive edge in the contracting arena. And when your business competes among other HUBZone-certified companies, you’ll be competing within a smaller pool of contractors – so you’re chances of winning are greater. Additionally, you’ll also receive a 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions. 

Need additional assistance?

Interested in more HUBZone help? HUBZone offers eligibility assistance on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3pm (eastern time) at-888-858-2144 (access code 3061773#). The staff facilitates the discussion – which is driven by participant questions – by providing the answers and introducing specific topics as time allows. You’ll learn how to maintain eligibility and decrease the possibility of an initial application being declined or being decertified after obtaining the HUBZone certification.

If you’re looking for status information, need help in resolving technical difficulties or need individualized assistance, you can email hubzone@sba.gov.

 

About the Author:

Mariana Pardo
Mariana Pardo is the Director of the HUBZone Program. She is responsible for issuing final determinations on applications for HUBZone certification, for the continuing monitoring of certified HUBZone firms and for resolving eligibility protests in connection to HUBZone contracts.

When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan?

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: February 24, 2014

There was a time, a few decades ago, when I thought sticking to the plan was a good for business. “Because that’s the plan” seemed like a good thing. But I’ve changed my mind.wall and ladder istock.com

Having a plan is absolutely a good thing. And sticking to the planning process — which means regularly checking results, evaluating progress, and revising a plan — is absolutely a good thing too. But sticking to a plan? Just because it’s supposedly something people do? No.

Years ago, I was one of four friends taking a two-week road trip in Europe. We were young, single and having fun. Three of us were fairly flexible about things, so if we liked one spot we’d want to stay there longer; if we didn’t like another, we’d want to take off early. But the fourth always wanted to stick to the plan. And that was such a pain. We’d made the plan before we left, and our trip meant learning. I remember the arguments: he’d say “but we have a plan” and we’d say “but when we made the plan we didn’t know what we do now.”

Fast forward to today and the first thing we can all see is that business time frames have changed. Business moves faster than it used to. And the business landscape has changed too. There’s still a lot of consolidation at the top, and those huge enterprises need to manage longer-term plans in order to be able to steer. But there’s also huge fragmentation at the bottom, too, with more than 20 million U.S. companies having no employees, and six or so small businesses, and they move faster. They have to.

So assumptions change very quickly. And that, to my mind, is the key to managing a business plan and keeping it useful.

First, do a plan that has concrete specifics you can track. Include not just the obvious numbers for sales, costs, and expenses, but also other manageable numbers like web traffic, visits, leads, presentations, calls, downloads, likes, mentions, updates, and whatever else drives your business.

Second, set a regular schedule for reviewing plan vs. actual results. Have a monthly task to look at progress and identify problems.

Third, learn to distinguish problems of execution from changed assumptions. If assumptions have changed, then the plan should change. If assumptions still hold true, then the difference between plan and actual results is a matter of execution. React to surprises according to what direction they go and what cause and effect you see. Usually, unexpectedly good results are a good reason to look at shifting resources towards the positive; unexpectedly bad results are a good reason to shift resources to correct a problem.

And that’s what I call the good side of sticking to a plan: have a plan, review it regularly, and revise it as needed. It’s way easier to correct your course if you have a plan than if you’re just reacting to whatever happened yesterday. 

(Image courtesy of stockphoto.com)

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

5 Payroll Tax Mistakes to Avoid

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: February 20, 2014

If you have at least one employee, you’re responsible for payroll taxes. These include withholding federal (and, where appropriate, state) income taxes and FICA tax from employees’ wages as well as paying the employer share of FICA tax and federal and state unemployment taxes. The responsibility is great and the penalties for missteps make it essential that you do things right.

1.    Misclassifying workers
Perhaps the hottest audit issue today is misclassifying workers. There’s incentive to treat workers as independent contractors rather than employees because payroll taxes and employee benefit costs are high; a company’s only tax responsibility for an independent is issuing a Form 1099-MISC if payments in the year are $600 or more.

You don’t have the freedom to select the label for the worker; classification depends on whether you have sufficient control over the worker. This essentially means having the right to say when, where, and how the work gets done. Having an independent contractor agreement is helpful in showing that you and the worker do not intend any employer-employee relationships, but it doesn’t bind the IRS, who is not a party to the agreement.

Find information about worker classification from the IRS. When in doubt, consult your tax advisor.

2.    Not using an accountable plan for employee reimbursements
If you normally pay for travel, entertainment, tools or other business costs for employees, you’re wasting employment tax dollars if you don’t use an accountable plan. With this arrangement, you deduct the expenses but avoid all payroll taxes on reimbursements; employees do not have any income from reimbursements.

To be an accountable plan, the employer must formalize the arrangement and set reasonable times for action (the following times are reasonable to the IRS but you can adopt shorter time limits for action):

  • The reimbursable expense must be business related.
  • Advances cannot be made before 30 days of the expense.
  • Employees must account for the expenses within 60 days of the expense.
  • Employees must return excess reimbursements to the employer within 120 days of the expense.

Find details on accountable plans from the IRS.

3.    Failing to keep payroll records
You are required to maintain payroll records and have them available for IRS inspection. These include time sheets, expense accounts, copies of W-2s and other payroll records. Usually, you should keep information for at least four years.

You should also retain copies of Forms I-9, which shows an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. States may also have certain hiring forms that should be retained (e.g., E-verify forms). Details about retaining I-9s can be found at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Department.
 
4.    Choosing to pay creditors before the IRS
When a business gets into a cash crush, it may be tempting to pay the landlord, vendor, or utility company before the IRS; don’t! As a business owner, you are a “responsible person” who remains 100% personally liable for “trust fund” taxes (amounts withheld from employees’ wages). This is so even if your business is incorporated or is a limited liability company.

Best strategy: Set aside cash to cover payroll taxes so you won’t use these funds for any other purpose. Find more information about the trust fund recovery penalty from the IRS.

5.    Failing to monitor payroll company activities
Many small businesses use outside payroll companies to handle the job of figuring withholding as well as transferring funds to the U.S. Treasury to cover payroll taxes. However, some of these companies may not do their job, by error or intentionally. As an employer, even if you use an outside payroll company you remain responsible for payroll taxes.

Best protection: Monitor your tax account to see that funds are being deposited on time and in the correct amount. If deposits are made electronically using EFTPS.gov, you can easily see activities in your account.

Conclusion
Stay on top of your employer responsibilities to avoid any penalties or entanglements with the IRS, the Department of Labor, or your state’s agencies.
 

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

Celebrating Your Small Business Accomplishments

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: February 19, 2014

Have you celebrated your small business’ accomplishments lately? In a few weeks, we’ll be tuning in to watch the Oscars – the Academy Awards – an occasion that acknowledges the finest achievements in the film industry in the last year. If you haven’t had the chance to step back and celebrate what you’ve achieved, here are a few ways this popular event can inspire you.

From the movie business to small business…

The Oscars feature categories that award many aspects of films – from the costumes that each filmgoer can easily see to the “behind-the-scenes” work that may not be as apparent to viewers once a film hits theatres. The same can go for your small business.

Think about the parts of your business, for instance, that are readily apparent to customers – like your website or store displays; then there are those elements that are just as crucial to success – like HR or the finance department – that may operate in a “behind-the-scenes” fashion.

And the award goes to…

Here are a few ideas about translating popular award categories to your business.

  • Best Supporting Actress/Actor – Acknowledge your team and the roles they’ve had in helping the business achieve success and reach goals. Maybe there was one project that stands out where someone went above and beyond what was required. Or perhaps another employee took on a task that didn’t involve his primary skillset, but he stepped up and got it done. These are great supporting actors to have – and they should be celebrated!
  • Best Foreign Language Film – Language is tough – even when you’re speaking the same one! Take this award as a chance to make note of achievements when your business faced communication challenges, either internal or with a customer, and overcame them. Misunderstood client made happy? Tension among a project team mediated? Translating those challenges into successes and learning opportunities is a great accomplishment.
  • Best Visual Effects – Did your agency deliver some stunning creative pieces to a client? Did your landscaping business create yard art from a formerly dead patch of grass? Think back to what you’ve made possible over the last year thanks to your and your team’s creativity and vision.
  • Best Costume Design – Costumes are extensions of characters, conveying who they are with a unique look and feel, accessories, etc. Similarly, your storefront or website does the same for your business – a visual representation of what your business is. Have you had a favorite window display over the year that attracted a lot of customers? Did you redesign your website or freshen it up? Here’s your chance to really make note.
  • Best Picture – Ah! The coveted Best Picture Award ultimately celebrates how well everyone collaborated – from directors, producers, writers, actors – to produce the best possible product. Take a look at the big picture of your business. How well do you think you fared? How well did your team come together to deliver and succeed? Did you connect with your target audience as you hoped? It’s a great opportunity to reflect on a job well done, so congratulations!

“I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Well, you probably don’t – but thank the people who’ve made your business successes possible by celebrating some of these achievements and acknowledgements with them. Maybe you can make an evening out of it, which could also be a great team-building occasion. If not, a spirited email or presentation over morning coffee can help you get your message across and jazz people up. After all, you’re celebrating not only a great year that’s just gone by – but a bright future built on a solid foundation of success.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

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In A Franchise, When Does The Money Start Rolling In?

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: February 18, 2014 Updated: September 13, 2016

You need to know how long it’s going to take to start recouping your investment in the franchise concept you’ve chosen. You certainly shouldn’t have to guess how long it’s going to take for you to see some green.

If you’d like to find out when the money will start rolling in, keep reading. I’m going to show you how to get that money question answered.

Open For Business

The day you open your franchise business up, you should see some money rolling in.

That day…Grand Opening Day should be a day to remember, especially if the marketing department at franchise headquarters did its job. Customers should be everywhere. Wallets should be out. Money should be rolling in. And, when word gets out that there’s a new business in town, you should see a good amount of foot traffic (if it’s a retail or food franchise) going in and out of your new business.

Money will be flowing in. It will feel good. You’ll feel like a million bucks. Enjoy that feeling. Savor it like a fine wine or a corn-fed steak.

The Money Can’t Roll Into Your Pocket Yet   

The money that’s rolling into your new business can’t go into your pocket. Not yet. It needs to go back into your business. You’ll have expenses to cover…things like rent, inventory, advertising and utilities. Of course there’s payroll. And don’t forget that you have to repay the small business loan you received.

That probably won’t leave much…and it’s not supposed to. You own a brand-new business…a startup business. Before you can pocket some of the money that will be coming in, you need to get your franchise business to break-even.* That should be your short-term goal.

What Is Break-Even?

That’s the point in which your revenue pays your business expenses. Only then can you start thinking about pocketing some of the money that’s coming in.

But, you knew that.

That’s because you took the time to write a proper business plan. One that included your sales forecast. A good business plan will include projections. You’ll have an idea of when you’ll be breaking even, what your sales will have to be to get there.   

Franchise Ownership Is A Long-Term Thing

You’ve got to be in it for the long haul.

If you’re looking to replace your salary quickly, it probably won’t happen. You’re going to have to be patient. Your family will have to be patient too. Hopefully, you’ve set aside some funds to get you through those first few months…or longer.

I know you want to see the money rolling in.

Choose a franchise that’s a good match for your skills. Make sure it’s well within your means. Talk to a lot of existing franchisees, and chose one or two to visit in-person. Write a formal business plan. Consult with a franchise attorney.

If you do enough right things, the money may well roll in.

I’m pulling for you.

*Non-US Government link 

 

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

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